As early as 1987, with the liner notes in U2’s album “The Joshua Tree,” artists have drawn attention to Amnesty Intl.’s efforts to free prisoners of conscience around the world — those who have been jailed for expressing their beliefs in restrictive societies. Less than three years ago, the sentiment helped form Artists for Amnesty, an org that targets the entertainment industry for fund-raising and advocacy.
“It can be as simple as lending their name or signing a petition,” says Bonnie Abaunza, director of Artists for Amnesty. “Many give money. Many go above and beyond that.”
For instance, Patrick Stewart established a scholarship fund for student activists so they can travel around the world to do human rights work. Thesp Mia Kirshner has traveled to Chechnya and Thailand while researching a book on refugees, the proceeds of which will go to AI.
Next year AI will launch a campaign for women’s rights, focusing on ending domestic violence globally and the use of rape as a tool of war. Highlighted will be the murders of women in Juarez, Mexico. A petition already sent to Mexican President Vicente Fox included the signatures of Nicolas Cage, Anjelica Huston, Susan Sarandon, Meryl Streep and others.